There is no easy solution for vagrancy, but affluent neighbourhoods may be more able to give a hands-up Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND Vagrancy is a very emotive topic and, following Mantombi Makhubele’s article “Please don’t feed the vagrants” (September 18), I would like to clarify certain misconceptions around the issue and the vagrancy initiative in my ward. The first misconception is around the term “vagrant”. The strict definition of vagrant is someone who wanders from place to place without a permanent home or employment. However, in our investigations into the various groups living on the streets of Johannesburg, we have discovered that, among the people we call vagrants, there are large numbers who, in fact, have homes, families and sometimes even a form of employment. For example, casual labourers who, owing to low salaries, prefer to sleep on the streets or in a park close to their place of work rather than use their money on transport home. The term “displaced people” is therefore a more accurate description, but, for the purposes of this article, I will use both. The next misconception is that vagrancy is a racial issue. It is, in fact, a problem that cuts across all races, age groups and genders. In short, it is about human beings who often just need a chance – sometimes several chances – in order to find a better life than on the streets. Furthermore, the suburbs and communities affected by vagrancy are of all races and socio-economic categories, but more affluent neighbourhoods, with more active residents’ associations, are perhaps better able to combat the environmental factors that encourage vagrancy. Among these environmental factors are apparently simply things like faulty street lights, blocked drains, broken pavements, abandoned land, the dumping of rubbish, general neglect and overgrowth. These often facilitate not only vagrancy, but crime as well, and need to be actively reported by residents. But the biggest misconception, and perhaps the most emotive one, is the idea that we can help the displaced by supporting them on the streets. Well-intentioned residents, church groups and charities can unwittingly create an environment for vagrancy to thrive in a suburb by giving vagrants money, food, clothes and blankets, which are often sold for cash to buy drugs or alcohol. None of these initiatives solve the vagrancy problem – they merely perpetuate it. Public awareness campaigns are therefore necessary to encourage people to rather support NGOs which assist with drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and provide shelters, education and employment for the homeless so that they may have a chance at a better life. Not all displaced people are drug addicts or alcoholics. Many are drawn to substance abuse to fight the cold or escape the harsh reality of their situation. The majority of vagrants need rehab before being accepted into shelters or programmes that could take them off the streets and give them a chance of finding a job and a place to live, but proper, free in-patient rehabilitation centres are extremely few and far between. We want to create one in our region, particularly to help homeless youths, who are often addicted to either glue or more serious drugs such as “woonga”, a lethal combination of heroin, dagga and antiretrovirals available on the streets at R25 a hit. Instead of giving them money for drugs, residents could contribute to sending these youths to a drug rehab centre. We also need more operational shelters, both governmental and nongovernmental. City shelters are often hampered by a lack of resources. For example, funding is required for a new shelter that has been created in Hillbrow. Number 3 Kotze Street has the capacity to take in 350 people, but, unfortunately, the Department of Human Development has not been given sufficient budget to run this facility effectively, so, for now, we can’t make use of it. Vagrancy is an extremely complex issue that requires a multipronged approach to address the specific needs of the various groups, including orphans and vulnerable children, teenagers, the aged, the unemployed and substance abusers. Drug dealers and criminals also often hide out among the homeless or co-opt them into criminal activities. But whatever their identity or circumstances, they cannot stay on the streets. It is neither healthy nor safe for them, and it is against the city’s bylaws for those very reasons, as well as for the protection of the rights of ordinary residents and businesses. Usually the SA Police Service or the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department are called in to remove them, but a more humane, long-term solution is required. It was in the spirit of finding a balance between the law and the rights of vagrants and residents alike that I invited representatives from the departments of human development and social assistance, the Displaced People’s Unit and Early Childhood Development, as well as NGOs, the SAPS, the metro police (who did not attend) and residents’ associations to a workshop in August. The aim was to identify the different groups of displaced people in our area, the hot spots they tend to congregate in and the resources we had at our disposal to resolve the problem together. We are hoping to use our ward vagrancy initiative as a pilot project for the rest of Johannesburg. The aim is to come up with a win-win situation. The homeless who can be helped will be provided with food, shelter, medical assistance – including drug rehabilitation if necessary – and hopefully employment opportunities through NGOs and city departments. Those vagrants involved in drug dealing and other forms of crime will be removed by law enforcement, and residents will no longer have to fear for their safety, nor worry about property devaluation. But in order to achieve this, buy-in is required from all stakeholders, particularly residents. Anyone interested in becoming involved in our project can contact me on email@example.com or read more on www.ward87.co.za.
WHAT IS YOUR NAME Jacques HOW OLD ARE YOU 34 WHEN LAST DID YOU STAY IN A HOME 8 years ago WHERE DID YOU GROW UP East London HOW DID YOU ARRIVE IN THE HELDERBERG (IF NOT FROM THE HELDERBERG) My girlfriend’s mom brought me here HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT THE SW NIGHT SHELTER My girlfriend’s mom knew about the shelter and brought me here HAVE YOU HAD CONTACT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS No not at first. Slowly but surely I am able to talk to them after a long time ARE YOU ABLE TO RETURN TO THEM Not yet at this time ARE YOU RECEIVING A GOVERNMENT GRANT No DO YOU HAVE A JOB Yes WHAT ARE YOUR SKILLS I am a qualified chef WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE Getting my life back on track HOW HAS THE SW NIGHT SHELTER HELPED YOU It has helped me realize that I have a drug problem WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE STAFF TEAM They are very helpful WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE FOOD Not too bad!!!!!! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF HOW TO FURTHER ASSIST PEOPLE WHO FIND THEMSELVES IN YOUR POSITION I could and would tell anyone about the Somerset west Night Shelter
The Somerset West Night Shelter tee’d off with a great start to their 2013 GOLFING event by receiving prizes and vouchers to the value of R57 000 across the field, provided by numerous sponsors, making it a bonanza day for the 66 players who participated. All in all the funds raised were R102 000, with R45 000 of that coming in from JOY! Christian Magazine which paid in full for the 54 new mattresses needed. The funds will be utilised to replace bedding for the clients and help set up the new office space. The golf section of the Helderberg Retirement Village hosted the day and “we are deeply grateful for the support and effort made by their whole team to ensure that the fundraiser was a huge success”. Major prizes went to: Mens pairs division: Winners: Gary Welsh and Pat Mahoney (who also won the floating trophy). Runners up: Anton Meyer and Brian Paine. Mixed pairs division: Winners: Corrie and Estelle Visagie. Runners up: Trevor Shaw and Anne Luker. Ladies pairs division: Winners: Stephanie du Plessis and Rosie Hunt. Runners up: Aileen Scheiner and Corina Everitt We would like to thank the following sponsors for their generosity.
The Night Shelter staff together with the Homeless Ministry of The Methodist Church, Church St had an outreach program to people living on the streets. There was a special church service under the theme LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR followed by Communion,after the service the shelter team served the clients with homemade soup and sandwiches. Sleeping bags were also handed out. A wonderful experience indeed to have made a difference in the lives of others in need.
The Somerset West Shelter is celebrating 25 years of operation during 2013. We will be having 4 key fundraisers during the year, which are SW Mall Charity Book Fair, Gala evening at the Play House, Golf Day and an Art & Wine Auction. We are hoping to raise R45 000 for replacing the mattresses. We accommodate 54 men & women on average every night. With a successful turn over of 20 new clients off the street and 20 being helped to the next step out of the shelter every month. During a year we offer 20 000 nights to the Homeless in the Helderberg. The mattresses are well worn and in desperate need of replacement. Each mattress will cost R800. The Shelter is being run by a team of 7 staff and 7 core board members. The chairperson for the past 2 years is Mrs Jo Swart, who has voluntarily been serving at the shelter many years. The hard work and dedication of the staff and board has ensured the continuation of services extended to the homeless in the Helderberg. The shelter is dependant on the generosity of local business and the community. During this year we want to express more than ever before our gratitude to all those who have supported, given and helped. The shelter has a long history, which started with a small group of concerned individuals. There is always concern for the homeless and the growing need is more evident than before. We have plans to extend and duplicate what we are doing in Strand, Gordon’s Bay and Macassar. Our team have hands on experience and are specifically trained to provide an excellent service to the homeless. We are constantly looking for wisdom and partner with like organisation in order to create as much momentum as possible. We understand that we have a crises on our hands and before we know it winter will be here. The Helderberg has deaths in doorways every year and in general the homeless numbers are growing. This is sad and unfortunate, but we know we have the power within a thriving community like ours to bring about change and to make a difference, one life at time. Our shelter remains full, however we have launched the VOUCHER system, where by we offer help to those we cannot accommodate. We offer a warm plate of food, a shower, clothes, a waterproof sleeping bag, bottle of water and a food pack. People are enjoying this concept and have taken it on board. Vouchers are available via Helderberg Crime Watch office at the Mall, through the Helderberg Neighbourhood Watch network, Helderberg Cares and at the shelter and at Life Church. The vouchers are only R10 and this is a RESPONSIBLE way to give to the homeless. It is vital that the community support and get involved with the Shelter as we have the knowledge and are in touch with the needs. A lot of wisdom is key to making a difference, our hearts can be broken when our generosity is exploited. Lets work together to make sure that we have a WINTER without HOMELESS people on the streets.
In January we attended our first Rotary CAR BOOT fundraiser event. We appealed for donations and organised Shelter clients to helps sort and price. We had so much stuff, including beautiful children’s clothes and toys. The crowd on the day was small both from the stand holders as well as attendance by the public point of view, but we believe everyone made money and expressed an interest for this to be ongoing. We are excited about the opportunity this brings to our shelter with regards to a constant monthly income stream. Many charities use selling second hand goods as an income, so competition is tough, we have found that variety and price is the big thing. In the past we hosted a monthly JUMBLE SALE at the shelter and made this available to locals living near the shelter. We will look to do this again. Please contact Paddy Judd on 083 701 6504 if you have any desirable items to donate.
We are busy organising the Christmas Day Gift boxes and can’t wait to bless our clients with them. 2013 has been one of our hardest years yet, we have had many struggles, but also in the midst of all the challenges, we have so much to be thankful for. More and more people are getting involved and taking the time to show they care about those much less fortunate then themselves. Imagine being HOMELESS… not a great thought. At Christmas time we do everything we can to create express love and create a space of belonging for each and every person who is with us. On Sunday night we had a great Carols Service at the shelter, each client had the opportunity to put a Christmas decoration onto the beautiful large tree which was so kindly donated. At first no one wanted to step up and be brave, but once the first person took the step towards the tree, they were all wanting a turn. A lovely meal was served by LIFE Church volunteers on Monday night, chicken, salads and a sweet something for after. The children from Life Church, about 10 of them handed out crackers and sweets. We welcome all the support we can get, it is our LIFE LINE. What keeps us going. We came accross this video about the HOMELESS PEOPLE IN MANCHESTER ENGLAND. The video expresses what every shelter would like to express… PLEASE SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHELTER. We would love if you could take a moment to have a look. Thank you and MERRY CHRISTMAS.
Christmas Day is on it’s way and we would like to spoil the people we have in our care. Most of us are blessed with family, gifts, fancy food and treats on this day. Our lives are filled with abundance of good things. The greatest gift is to share what you have and bless others. To make it easy we thought we would put an appeal out for 54 ‘SOMETHINGS’. So far we have a donation of 54 packets of chips, 54 packets of sweets from Erinvale ECHO ladies group and are hoping for many more 54 somethings. Suggested gifts are: tins of coke, nail clipper, sports sock, vaseline hand cream, deodorant, tissue pack, toothbrushe, toothpaste, soap, biscuit, small tins of coffee, slab of chocolate, cracker, peak caps, water bottle, carry bag, magazines, etc [we cater for 12 women and 42 men, incase you want to buy specific male / female gifts] We will hand this all out on Christmas Day with a special lunch. Can you imagine how excited they all will be to open up a hamper of gifts?! Contact the shelter on 021 851 4984 or 072 851 5362 and speak to Nazleah or Wayne, we can send Nicolaas our driver to collect. Thank you xxx
This is such an interesting article that was on the front page of the TygerBurger on the 14 November. Parkin from Preferred Future wrote:
Mark Buhrer and Shane McConnachi, from Cape Town, took to the streets for a whole week, without the luxuries they are accustomed to in their lives as successful entrepreneurs – they called what they did the Walk the Walk initiative.
This is a couple of awesome points from the article:
How the idea came about:
For Marc’s 31st birthday mark got some friends together and they cooked food for 220 people at The Haven shelter. Everyone that got involved said it was the most amazing thing and it was the best birthday he had ever had. From there, he decided to go bigger and better. This lead to the Facebook group Dare to Share through which they served more food to people living on the streets.
Excerpts from the article:
“The assumption we make when we see someone on the street is that the worth of their lives might not be as much as ours. You don’t know how that person got to the position they are in. I am sure in the majority of us faced the issues and realities that these individuals faced we could possibly be in a very similar position.”
He said perception is lethal.
“Giving these people money only keeps them on the streets. We should rather support them by buying overnight vouchers from shelters or by supporting the shelters themselves.”